Infanticide, Brain Implants, and Diet Culture Apologies

Infanticide, Brain Implants, and Diet Culture Apologies
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Happy Friday! What's good?

If you're going to sit down and read this weekend – and please do be a person that reads... and reads long form – I strongly suggest The New Yorker article by Rachel Aviv on the criminal case again Lucy Letby, the British nurse convicted of killing seven infants in her care. The article is 13,000 words, I know, I know, but it is incredibly well-reported and absolutely worth your time. It raises all sorts of questions – "reasonable doubt" and whatnot – about whether or not Letby actually "did it." And it's all quite contrary to the media coverage (which was fairly limited here state-side, but ubiquitous in the UK), which consistently portrayed her as evil incarnate.

The story surely underscores the failures of a number of British institutions, particularly the beloved NHS and the less-beloved press (the article cannot be accessed in the UK as a court order has restricted media coverage of the case). And it highlights too some things that I touch on here a lot: a distinction between institution and individual – how that plays out in issues of health and justice; the stories we tell about the power and promise of technology and innovation and how these are, for so many people, just stories and not their lived experiences with medical care.

What is not in the police’s remit is finding a systemic problem in an organization like the National Health Service, after decades of underfunding, where you have overworked people cutting little corners with very vulnerable babies who are already in a risk category. It is much more satisfying to say there was a bad person, there was a criminal, than to deal with the outcome of government policy.”

Elsewhere in medical technology, via The Stack: "One of the US's largest hospital providers, Ascension, fired IT staff in a cost-cutting drive; now it’s sucking up a cyber attack." I was shocked shocked! to hear that Elon Musk's Neuralink "experienced a mechanical issue with its first human brain-computer interface implant," probably because of what Wired calls its "unique design." "The First Person to Receive a Pig Kidney Transplant Has Died." The Cut on fake certifications for "veneer techs." [Insert MOOC joke here, I suppose.]

Meanwhile, in the business of health and fitness technology: Google Fit APIs will be shut down next year, which will likely break some fitness devices. Whoop, maker of fitness wearables, has signed soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo as an investor and "ambassador." Yikes. Here's some health tech churnalism for you: "The SageHouse, an investment and advisory firm for fitness brands, is going all in on longevity. The firm announced the launch of its first operating brand, proof3, which aims to revolutionize longevity fitness for individuals aged 30 and above through remote coaching." Solidcore, a boutique gym chain that offers Pilates-like classes, is exploring a sale – make money out of the booming popularity of Pilates while you can, I guess. Other money-making ideas: What if you combined the cinema with cardio? Sounds kinda awful, to be honest, but installing treadmills and spin bikes in mini theaters and showing classic movies on a big screen is, apparently, an idea that some gyms are playing with. Despite reports earlier in the year that gym traffic was down, a new industry report says that gym visits are actually up. So maybe the cardio cinema won't be necessary after all.

Oprah has apologized for her role in promoting diet culture – during a WeightWatchers special she hosted. (I felt obligated to watch the part with Tressie McMillan-Cottom, and she did not disappoint. Oprah, OTOH...) The Atlantic on "The Fad Diet to End All Fad Diets" – that would be intermittent fasting, popular in no small part because it's positioned as a "productivity hack" by tech bros. Indeed, the article notes that this is a diet geared towards "optimization" but fails to mention it is not recommended for active women. Because bro science. Speaking of bro science, The Guardian on the "anti-woke" vitamin industry. And speaking of food and technology fads, "Farewell, Chuck E. Cheese Animatronic Band." (I made the mistake of googling Nolan Bushnell, Chuck E. Cheese / Atari founder, and it seems like he's still involved in ed-tech, still promising to revolutionize education. Dude couldn't even revolutionize pizza restaurants, but sure.)

Bad advice, bad takes – they're everywhere. We don't even need animatronics to churn that shit out. Nevertheless, that's where we're headed I hear, as there were a number of ridiculous AI announcements this week that folks went all slack-jawed for – I'll have more to say about this soon. But in the meantime, do heed Julia Angwin and "Press Pause on the Silicon Valley Hype Machine." (Hell. "Press delete," I say.) And while we're at it, here's L. M. Sacasas on that terrible new iPad ad from Apple. There simply aren't any good ideas in tech (let alone good tech), despite all the innovation hustle. See also: John Herrman on "Why LinkedIn Now Wants You to Play Games." The arc of the technology/media universe is long and it bends towards word search, I guess.

Thanks for reading Second Breakfast. I'll be back with a regularly scheduled essay on Monday on "spectating" and sports technology – any opportunity to cite Guy Debord. Please consider becoming a paid subscriber and supporting thinking and writing that demands the impossible.